Student Profiles

Alexandra Alvarez '13Alexandra Alvarez '13

I  come from a family of educators. Mother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they were all involved in education in some way. And while they never pushed a degree or career in education it seems their passion has rubbed off on me. I spent a lot of time in high school mentoring youth and tutoring. I continued to do volunteer service at Bowdoin, which along with my classes in Sociology and Education Studies guided me towards the decision to minor in Education Studies and consider further job opportunities in the field post-Bowdoin.

What really confirmed my interest in education, though, was the department at Bowdoin. The professors and students of the department are extraordinary individuals. Chuck Dorn, Doris Santoro, Nancy Jennings, and Katie Byrnes are some of the unbelievable professors I have had the pleasure to interact with. The classes and content I have studied in the department have developed in me a critical, yet thoughtful, lens towards education systems and the possibilities for improvement and growth—both within me and within the large public/private/independent education system currently in place in the U.S. I hope to be a positive contribution to the field as I take what I have learned at the Education Studies Department at Bowdoin into future jobs and graduate schools.

I am currently completing an Advanced Independent Study with Doris Santoro about school governance and teacher leadership. I am also enrolled in Mindfulness in Education with Katie Byrnes. After I graduate this year I hope to work in urban schools and expose myself to further challenges facing education today while continuing to work with youth and passionate professionals.

Zoe Eiber '13Zoe Eiber '13

Hometown: Miami Beach, Florida

I first became interested in education when working for Breakthrough Collaborative in high school. Through my work with the program, I decided that I loved teaching but when I came to college, I hadn’t intended on taking any education classes. I thought that going to college to “become a teacher” seemed far too vocational for my indecisive nature and I liked the idea of not being holed into a particular subject. However, I fell into Education 101 my freshman spring and it quickly became one of my favorite classes.

I liked the idea of continuing with education and being able to relate my experiences to a field placement. With that, I signed up for Education 203—Educating all Students. I struggled with the decision again to sign up for 301 and 303—Teaching, Learning and Curriculum—but after hearing good feedback from other students, I decided to take them. It was a good decision as the discussions in class combined with my experience in my placement solidified my desire to teach. With all of these great experiences in the department, I had no hesitation in signing up for the Mindfulness in Education class next semester.

One of the great things about the education department at Bowdoin is that I still had the opportunity to get my ‘liberal arts education.’ I was still able to complete a major, take many other classes and even study abroad. It was always a worry of mine that if I committed too much to education at an undergraduate level, I would shut the door on other opportunities, but at Bowdoin it’s possible to do it all.

I’m so glad that I’ve had these experiences with the education department. Although it can sometimes be frustrating to wrestle with the issues in education, I like the idea that there is never a clear answer---and it seems to match the type of work that education involves. Working with people is ever changing and can be subjective. I like the holistic approach that the department takes to teaching educational ideas and that we are able to gain a hands-on understanding of the successes and challenges while in our placements.

Though I’m not sure what my next step is, I am currently exploring several different avenues, all of which involve teaching in some capacity.

Bill Griffiths '14Bill Griffiths '14

Hometown: Darien, Connecticut

I credit my past teachers for inspiring my interest in education. From elementary school to high school I had thoughtful and caring role models who expanded my horizons and made school a safe, welcoming place. The great relationships I formed with my teachers helped me not only become a better student and person but also led me to realize that I wanted to make a difference in a similar way. By becoming an educator, I hope that I can be a meaningful mentor for others too.

I might be becoming teacher-biased, but I believe the professors of the Bowdoin Education Department have also contributed enormously to my education. Doris Santoro, Nancy Jennings, and Katie Byrnes bring a great variety of perspectives, insights, and passions into their classrooms, encouraging students to think more critically and reflectively. These aims are complemented really well with hands-on learning experiences in local public schools. Working intensively in a 5th grade classroom in Brunswick’s own Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary for Education 203 and in a high school social studies classroom at a K-12 school in Vinalhaven, Maine for Education 301/303 gave me the chance to apply and crosscheck what I have learned from my Bowdoin courses, making my education courses all the more meaningful and engaging. Educating in these communities has also given me some lifetime memories along with a defense against the effects of the mythical “Bowdoin Bubble”.

I am enrolled in Education 325 (Mindfulness in Education) for the spring of 2013 and am considering pursuing an honors project on the history of American education for my senior year. As for post-graduation, I plan on teaching high school social studies and pursuing graduate studies in education or education policy, perhaps returning to campus along the way to earn a public teaching certification as a Bowdoin Teacher Scholar. Regardless of where my career ends up though, I believe my time and studies here at Bowdoin and in the education department will prove invaluable.

Sasha Davis '13Sasha Davis '13

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

I came to Bowdoin with the intention of taking some education courses, but I definitely was not totally committed to the idea of being involved in education long term after graduation. In fact, I was the classic first-year liberal arts student in my quest for a major and a pathway to a potential occupation—I went from wanting to be a doctor, to a physician’s assistant, to a lawyer, to a researcher and analyst at a think tank, and I’m probably even leaving a few of out. I took classes in all different departments until it came time for me to declare my major (Government and Legal Studies), but all during that colorful journey to my eventual decision, I was enrolled in education classes.

My Education 101 class first captivated me in the fall semester of my freshman year. A graduate of a public magnet school in the DC Public School System, I came to Bowdoin full of opinions about public education. I thought I knew all the answers, but this class forced me to employ critical thinking and analysis skills I never even thought could be used to understand public education and the reasons why it is the way it is today. I continued on in my classes after 101 and fell in love with the on-site classroom components in the teaching courses I continued to take. I found that not only did I love reading about public education, classroom experiences and pedagogy, and learning differences, but I also lit up when I was given a chance to actively participate and observe in middle school classrooms.

It was through this seamless blend between theory and practice that I was able to identify my passion at Bowdoin. I love theory and the breakthrough moments that happen in class when I start to fully understand the concepts being discussed in lecture and seminar-style conversations, but I am truly addicted to taking that theory and applying it in middle school classrooms. Bowdoin’s education program creates a safe space for emerging teachers to not only learn the methods and practical skills of effective classroom instruction, but it also prepares them with a sound theoretical background I find necessary to being successful in a classroom.

Right now, the only plan that is for certain is that I am graduating in the spring. I am looking at and have applied to a couple of different certification and Masters in Teaching programs in New England. While my immediate future plans will be up in the air until April, I do know that I plan on returning to a city and becoming a middle school teacher in an urban school district in the near future. 13-year-old-me would have rolled her eyes and laughed if I told her now that 21-year-old-me wanted to be a middle school teacher, but I cannot imagine working with any other age group or any in any other capacity other than teaching right now.

Bowdoin Teacher Scholar Profiles

Matthew Bernstein '13

Matthew Bernstein '13

Hometown: London, England
Major/Minor: History/Teaching
Placement School: Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)
Subject area: 9th grade Social studies

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had the great fortune to participate in a service trip to Tanzania. While there, I taught some classes at a local school and instantly fell in love with teaching. I loved being able to see, and even feel a part of, moments where students developed understanding and showed an incredible excitement for education. After this experience, I became extremely interested in becoming a teacher. A few years later, when I was looking at different colleges, I was drawn to Bowdoin’s offer of a teacher certification program. Indeed, a large part of my decision to come to Bowdoin was because I knew that I would have the opportunity to pursue a teaching certification as an undergraduate. Throughout my Bowdoin experience, I have been fortunate enough to work with students of all ages in both rural and urban schools. Each and every experience I have had has solidified and strengthened my desire to teach. The students I have worked alongside have continued to inspire me and they have shown me the great benefits of being a teacher. I have decided to participate in BTS because after all my overwhelmingly positive experiences working with students, I know that I want to teach. BTS is a big part of the reason why I came to Bowdoin and, although I’ve changed a lot since I was 15, I still love the moments where I can see a student learning and enjoying their education. In my opinion, BTS is a way for me to see more of those moments and a great opportunity for me to develop the skills I need to make those moments happen more often in my future classrooms.

Rachel Lopkin '13Rachel Lopkin '13

Hometown: South Salem, NY
Major/Minor: French/English
Placement school: Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)
Subject area: French 2 and French 3

One of the many reasons I came to Bowdoin was for the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. The fact that I could, as an undergrad, become a certified French teacher was immensely appealing to me. Starting with ED101 my very first semester here, my interest in education studies only continued to grow as I learned about the vast and varied challenges of educating children. I went from simply wanting to communicate and hopefully transfer my enormous passion and enthusiasm for the French language and Francophone studies, to wanting to understand the differences and the tensions between what education should and what education does look like in America. My experience studying abroad in Paris last year only solidified this interest, as I compared and contrasted the French and American educational systems. I started to question my own definitions of education and teaching, and began to analyze my own experiences as a public school student. What does it mean to be a successful student? How do we demonstrate acquired knowledge? How do we successfully engage students with the material at hand? What is the role of a teacher, both in and beyond the walls of the classroom? And so on. As my interest in education studies grew, I knew that the only way to truly understand the issues behind these questions was to get in front of the classroom myself. I know that my experiences as a full-time student teacher at Greely next semester will help me to answer some of these questions, but will also open up new paths of inquiry and create even bigger challenges. I look forward to tackling these challenges with the help of the Education department here at Bowdoin and of my cooperating teachers at Greely. Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master's degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.

Molly Porcher '13Molly Porcher '13

Hometown: Stow, MA
Major/Minor: History/Teaching
Placement school: Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)
Subject area: 11th grade Social studies

I’ve been interested in teaching long before I came to Bowdoin. In fact, beginning as early as middle school I envisioned myself as a teacher—I even kept notes on lessons or activities from school that I particularly enjoyed, imagining that I would one day use them in my own classroom! As someone who sincerely enjoys connecting with others and thrives off of communication, I always thought of teaching as the ideal profession. At Bowdoin, my education courses widened my perspective and challenged my assumptions; they forced me to see teaching as far more complicated and the role as teacher as far more nuanced (and difficult) than my younger self had always imagined.  But my coursework also reinforced my desire to be a teacher; it expanded my reasoning for wanting to teach from a largely abstract desire to a defined understanding of what was important in the classroom and the crucial part that teachers play in shaping this learning environment. Through one class at Bowdoin, I had the opportunity to work individually with a high school student who was struggling in class and at risk of failing. Her trouble lay in transition to a new school, trouble at home, and difficulty processing in the traditional classroom environment. My experience with her reinforced the mantra that every student can learn and that individual student needs are highly important. Although she has since graduated and is taking classes at a local community college, we are still close today and see each other often, a constant reminder of why I want to teach. Now confident that I want to go on to be a teacher, Bowdoin Teacher Scholars provides an amazing opportunity that allows me to pursue my long-time goal of being a teacher while still supported by the Bowdoin community and the Bowdoin education department. Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through BTS is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!